Containing cates key for eskies win

Containing Cates the key for Eskimos defence
Mario Annicchiarico ,
Published: Tuesday, October 21, 2008
EDMONTON - The game plan is obvious - stop the opposition's running game and the Edmonton Eskimos greatly improve their chances of beating the Saskatchewan Roughriders on their home turf come Saturday.

"Getting Wes Cates back is a big deal for them because he's an impact player," Esks defensive co-ordinator Rick Campbell said of the Riders' running back, who returned to the lineup last week from injury.

"He's just a real athletic guy. If you're not in your gap, or if you don't wrap up when you tackle, he can make guys miss. He's fast enough if you make a mistake he'll make you pay big as opposed to a guy who isn't quite as

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The Eskimos wrap up Saskatchewan Roughriders running back Wes Cates on Aug. 21.
Ed Kaiser/Edmonton Journal

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Font:****athletic, you can make a mistake and not have it hurt you as badly."

Cates has put the hurt on many an opposing defence. He leads the league in both rushing touchdowns with 10 and total yards from scrimmage with 1,580. He sits second in yards rushing at 1,152.

It will be the key matchup as the Eskimos are coming off a game in which they allowed 141 yards on the ground in a 43-28 loss to the

Ray on record pace
Mario Annicchiarico , Canwest News Service
Published: Tuesday, October 21, 2008
EDMONTON - When it comes to Ricky Ray, the Edmonton Eskimos are definitely going to need more than three pages to describe his accomplishments in the 2009 version of their media guide.

The Green and Gold quarterback, who turns 29 Wednesday, continues to pile up achievements and erase team records.

Next up? Warren Moon's log for passing yards in a season as Ray sits just 388 yards shy of one of the Eskimos' all-time great passers.

Edmonton Eskimos' quarterback Ricky Ray makes a pass against the British Columbia Lions during the first half of their CFL football game in Edmonton October 17, 2008.

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Font:****Moon racked up 5,648 yards through the air on 380 completions in the 1983 season. Ray currently sits at 5,260 on 389 completions, with two regular-season games to go.

"I wonder which second or third quarter he'll get that one in," laughed CFL Hall of Famer Tom Wilkinson, who knows a thing about quarterbacks, having tutored Moon.

What impresses Wilkinson the most aren't the statistics, but the Eskimo pivot's demeanour.

"Just watch his face, he can throw a 98-yard touchdown pass, an incomplete pass or an interception and he doesn't change expressions. He's just steady and goes on to the next play," offered Wilkinson. "He's probably one of the most accurate passers I've ever seen."

This year Ray has been good on 389 of 562 attempts for 69.2 per cent, slightly behind league-leader Anthony Calvillo's 70.1 per cent mark on 453 of 646 tosses.

"This year has been one of those seasons where we've been able to put up some big numbers. I think you see it across the league as well, the numbers that Anthony Calvillo and Henry Burris are putting up, as well, are just amazing," offered Ray.

"Offences are making a comeback here compared to the last couple of years. We've definitely got a receiving corps here as deep as anybody's. It makes my job easier and a byproduct of that is putting up good numbers."

Can he give himself a belated birthday present, via the record, come Saturday afternoon at Mosaic Stadium, or will it have to keep until the final game of the year at home on Halloween against Montreal?

"I don't know, I'd like to, but they're a good defence," said a smiling Ray, of the upcoming clash with the Saskatchewan Roughriders. "It's one of the better ones against the pass. I think 388 would be a high bar to set against these guys."

The odds are good he'll get to 300. Ray has 11, 300-plus yard games to his name already this season and has managed that feat 40 times over his six-year CFL career. Three times he has thrown for more than 5,000 yards in a season.

He's already in the Eskimos record book for most passes thrown in a career, 3,214; most completions, 2,160; most yards in a career, 27,053; and most touchdowns, 151 - having just recently passed Moon's 144. Ray also heads up the team list for most passes thrown in a season, 715 in 2005; most completions in a season, 479 in 2005; and most passes thrown (55) and completed (40) in a single game, Aug. 20, 2005 versus Toronto.

The team records are a sign of even more good things to come, suggested Wilkinson, who envisions Ray shattering most Eskimo, if not league, marks.

"I would say he has a good chance, depending on injuries and everything, but based on his age he has a chance to go after the long-term records.

"They throw the ball a lot more now, all teams do," added Wilkinson. "If he plays another five years and gets 4,000 (yards) a year, that's 20,000 more yards. Then he's still only 34.

"As long as the game stays important to him."

Edmonton Journal


Esks need to develop killer instinct
Second-half blunders have been costly for West division team
John Korobanik , The Edmonton Journal
Published: Tuesday, October 21, 2008
That the Edmonton Eskimos will be fighting to not finish last in the CFL west this weekend, instead of maybe being in first place, can be traced to one disturbing facet of their game -- shutting down the offence in the second half of games.

In their seven losses this season they have been outscored 133-63 in the second half and in their last three games have scored just 13 points, although they did win two of those outings.

Four of those seven losses have been by a touchdown or less. In two of those they were leading at the half, in another they were tied and in the fourth they trailed by a single point. Four very winnable games lost because the offence went into protect-the-lead mode.

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Eskimos running back Calvin McCarty sits on the bench as the second tick down in the game.
Edmonton Journal

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Font:****Sports is such a mental game and quarterback Ricky Ray, the man who should be driving the offence for 60 minutes, admits the club could be thinking too much about protecting leads and not enough about burying their opponents.

"Maybe we're just trying to protect the lead instead of playing like we did in the first half (of games)," he says.

"Sometimes you get to a point where you start thinking if we just don't make any mistakes, if we don't turn the ball over, if we play a little more conservative we'll make it tough on them to come back. When you do that you're not as aggressive and that leads to not scoring many points."

It's a mentality that probably cost the Eskimos, first place in the West this year and could relegate them to finishing fourth. A loss in Regina Saturday to the Roughriders will leave them no where to go, but last place in the standings.

"Yeah it is," says Ray. "The last couple of weeks we've had the opportunity to really put games away and we haven't been able to do it. We've let teams hang in there. We all know what the CFL's like, it's not where you get a lead and just sit on it, run the ball and milk the clock."

Well, certainly not the Eskimos who have shunned the running game most of the season and now probably couldn't use it to "milk the clock" even if they wanted to. Which means it's too many two-and-outs, turning the ball over to opponents and putting too much pressure on the defence.

"There's a lot of time and a lot of opportunities for teams to make up big ground, especially in those last three minutes," says Ray. "So we have to do a better job in the second half."

In fairness the Eskimos have won three of the 10 games in which they've been outscored in the second half, including two of the last three in which they managed just one field goal in each of the final 30 minutes of their wins.

Head coach Danny Maciocia said there's a tendency to change your attitude when you're ahead, but admits: "You're not going to have those opportunities every week where you can get away with playing half a football game.

"We have to have a mentality when we take the field that it's for 60 minutes. The last two times we played B.C. (before last Friday) we scored on our opening drive. We put up over 20 points by the end of the half and then in the second half we've struggled and we have to find a way to put in a performance that's 60 minutes' worth."

It may already be too late since bad habits are difficult to break, especially in a short period and with the regular season over in two weeks.

What should be disturbing to Eskimo fans is that the team has a ton of offensive weapons that should be able to put points on the board throughout the game, against almost every defence.

Ray says he's got more playmakers to use this year and the problem isn't the offensive scheme, like it was last season.

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Font:****"We have guys who can make plays," he said. "I'm throwing balls where these guys are catching them and making guys miss and picking up first downs. We have guys with speed who can get on top of defenders ... a combination of guys who know how to make plays that make the offence click."

So why isn't it scoring points in the second half with the same effectiveness as in the first? Unfortunately for the Eskimos, they have to either figure that out by Saturday or score a ton of points in the first half that would enable them to survive through the final 30 minutes. Anything else and it's a trip to Winnipeg for the East semifinal.